Welcome! / by Hannah Harley

Hello and welcome to the new website! 

Over the past few weeks, between the Fix meetings and softball practices and actually going to class, I have been working on updating to this site.  I've transitioned from the former blog based format to this new presentation, but don't worry -- I plan to update the blog regularly with works in progress and the current goings-on in my life. 

The newly decorated photography labs at Point Park

The newly decorated photography labs at Point Park

As you may have noticed, in recent years, I have been transitioning from senior portraits and weddings to fine art photography. Typically, I have not shared the elements of this transition online as they were often raw, emotional examples of my own attempts to navigate the world. But now, I'm ready to share. 

Originally, photography was one of those things I could do kind of well and I kind of liked it, so it seemed reasonable to use it to earn a living. I didn't really know how to photograph or edit, but I was constantly told by various aunts that I had 'the eye'. That and a trip to France sealed the deal. I would be a photographer. Simple as that. 

But in 2011, I had no idea that photography could be so diverse, so powerful, so consuming. I had an inclination for it, but I could never predict how important it would become to me. 

My first real experimentation with fine art photography occurred in Matt Adams' Intro to Black and White Photography class. I was constantly being challenged by my fellow classmates, and for the first time, I felt like I was part of an intellectual community. We really critiqued each others' work, and we invested in each others' success. For our final project, we had to turn in a conceptual series. I, having recently been on a weight gain/loss rollercoaster, decided to photograph bodies looking their best and their worst to show how big of a role our perceptions have in our self esteem. It was not the best technically executed series by any means, but it was my start down this conceptual road. 

Since then, I have been creating bodies of work to help me understand the world better, and I began looking to photography to delve into my own psychology and our societal issues. With each series, it has been a transformative learning experience and I'm grateful for each one.

And maybe some people from my hometown will joke that I'm an art-tiste now.. But I'm using this medium to tackle problems, to make a difference - for one person or a thousand. 

It's been an amazing few years, so let me introduce this semester's works in progress! 
This semester is a 24 credit one, and it is constantly requiring me to make new work, which is challenging in the best way. 
I have begun shooting 4x5 view camera, lugging it around Pittsburgh in pursuit of some big negatives. I sometimes convince my friends to come out with me and that looks something like this: 

Our senior thesis preparations have begun, and I am too excited about seven different ideas to really decide on one. I've been going to the library for research, but it's just leading me to more information that gives me more ideas. I've been talking with artists and seeking critiques from my peers, and my professor doesn't seem too concerned that I'm casting my net pretty wide right now. My ideas are pretty rough right now, but I've been having fun collaging. I spend way too many late nights with my roommates' paper cutter and a roll of glue. It's been a soothing exploration. 

I have been looking through past bodies of work, in order to re-edit or re-conceptualize them. I've been looking at the images from the road trip. I've noticed that I shot out of the car quite frequently, and some of the images have this beautiful deadpan aesthetic. I've been compiling those and adding to it, and we'll see what I make out of it. 

Yesterday evening, I had a big first: I hung my first show. And it was awesome.
I was lucky enough to work for Just Harvest and Repair the World to sequence and hang the works that were selected. I recruited one of my dear friends, Michelle Montana, to help. We've both talked extensively about our curatorial dreams, so it only seemed fitting to get started together. 

The show was organized by Just Harvest, a nonprofit dedicated to helping raise awareness for hunger and eradicating poverty, and Repair the World. I was connected with Just Harvest through Zack Block, the director of Repair the World. I photographed him for Pittsburgh Magazine, and he was kind enough to get to know me and encourage me in my future plans. 

Just Harvest facilitated this show to bring awareness to living conditions and poverty in Pittsburgh. Marie Muzzie, a grassroots organizer with Just Harvest, interviewed each of the five photographers and encouraged them to photograph their own experiences. The series ranged from the documentation of an individual's eviction to the stigma surrounding food stamps. The work itself was a powerful representation of these daily difficulties, but I found that the most beautiful moments were the photographers' reactions to the presentation of the images. To know that we presented their work in such a way that brought that much joy to their night.. That's a great feeling. 

And I guess this is the part of the blog post in which I tell you that I have decided that I want to be a curator. Following my graduation from Point Park University, I plan to get my master's in curatorial practices. While I love photography whole heartedly, I've come to realize that my personality and my passions lend themselves more towards a career in curatorial work. Now, there will be a multitude of obstacles I will have to overcome. Even now, as I'm riddled with the self doubt and fear, I'm hesitant to publish this bold declaration on the internet. (After all, when has anything gone according to plan?) But every important thing I have done in my life had this daunting amount of fear attached to it. 

So here's to following your dreams and being absolutely terrified. 
Happy Senior Year, my friends!!